Amid tumultuous time, Heat’s Highsmith appreciative that ‘basketball is my peace’

Haywood Highsmith doesn’t minimize the moment, one still traumatic and troubling.

But the Miami Heat forward has appreciated the refuge.

A week after being cited for “driving in a careless or negligent manner” in an accident that left a victim with a partially amputated leg, remaining at that scene to render assistance, Highsmith spoke heading into the All-Star break about the comfort gained in his return to the team.

“Basketball is my peace,” he said after Wednesday night’s 109-104 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers that gave the Heat their sixth win in their last eight games. “I wanted to get back with my teammates and my coaches, to be around them, so they can get my energy up.

“Obviously, it hasn’t been the easiest week or so for me, but I’m just taking it day by day, and being around my team has been very helpful. Being around my family, the coaching staff, everybody, has been very helpful. So the Heat culture, Heat family had my back, so I appreciate that.”

While basketball pales in comparison to that moment on a darkened Miami-Dade street that night a week ago, when Highsmith was cited for driving 5 mph above the speed limit, Highsmith put his focus back into the game, his presence needed amid the absences of Jimmy Butler, Terry Rozier and Josh Richardson heading into what now is an eight-day break.

Wednesday night, the soft-spoken 27-year-old led the Heat’s reserves with 16 points in a season-high 36:29, shooting 4 of 10 on 3-pointers, while also taking defensive turns against Philadelphia All-Star guard Tyrese Maxey.

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“He was really good defensively,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And he’s put together three straight games defensively where he’s had a massive impact on the game. Whether it was man or zone, his discipline, his wingspan, his ability to move his feet, I think was allowing us to crowd the ball a little bit easier, so it wasn’t necessarily the straight-line drives.

“And then he hit a big three in the fourth quarter, and I loved the fact he stayed with it. He missed some open ones and didn’t get discouraged by that and when we really needed him to knock down one based on how they were guarding him, he hit a big one.”

It was a night when the 76ers essentially dared Highsmith to shoot, with his 3-pointer with 7:13 to play putting the Heat ahead for good..

“That’s how it is,” he said. “People keep leaving me open, I’m going to keep shooting it. So if that’s how a team is going to play, so be it. I’m going to keep shooting ’em, no matter if I’m making them or missing.”

All while maintaining real-life perspective.

“I’m just taking it day by day,” he said. “It’s not going to be easy, obviously, but just take it day by day.”

Straight talk

To Spoelstra, a timeout 5:06 into Wednesday’s night’s game, with his team down 22-15, was a necessary reset.

“After that first timeout of the game, they were on their way to a 50-point first-quarter, 200-point game,” Spoelstra said. “That was not going to be a great formula for us. I told the guys in the huddle, ‘I’m not sure but we’ll try. I’m not sure we can score 201 points.’ It was just so easy at the beginning.

“But at halftime we regrouped, and I was encouraged to see the commitment, do the tougher things defensively. And you saw a lot of those plays in the last six minutes of the game.”

The Heat limited the 76ers to 42 second-half points.

“We just wanted to make it ugly, honestly,” guard Tyler Herro said, “just figure out a way to get ourselves in a position to win the game at the end, and we did.”